After several months of negotiations between transit officials and TWU Local 100, the MTA has agreed to set aside more jobs for pregnant women who need lighter duties. The announcement comes after a pregnant transit worker lost her baby while giving birth prematurely during her shift at a Brooklyn rail yard this summer.
There will now be four announcer positions for expecting mothers who, for medical reasons, can no longer perform jobs that are more physically demanding.
“Pregnant women for the first time will have an opportunity for a real light-duty option that doesn’t include standing on their feet all day or doing physical labor,” TWU President Tony Utano wrote in a statement. “The agreement is an important first step to finally provide our union sisters, regardless of title, the opportunity to continue to work in jobs that will not threaten their health or the health of their babies.”
The four new positions are only for subway operators and conductors. Last year, the MTA said it received eight requests from pregnant women for lighter duties. The agency also noted that there are other positions available to pregnant women, which they can apply to through Human Resources.
The MTA and the union created a pregnancy task force to work on the issue after train conductor Jillian Williams’s miscarriage in the East New York rail yard. Williams never received an accommodation because she said she had difficulty figuring out how to apply for one.
The MTA would not comment on Williams’s miscarriage, citing a pending lawsuit.
“Ensuring we can open these dedicated announcer positions is another strong step for women in NYC Transit and will enable pregnant women who have a medical necessity the ability to remain in the workforce for a longer period of time,” Interim New York City Transit President Sarah Feinberg wrote in a statement. “I’m proud to reach an agreement with TWU and make this a reality.”
The new positions will be available to the pregnant conductors and train operators for 60 days, after which they can request a 30 day extension. Employees still on probation are also eligible for these jobs. Williams, who waited until her sixth month of pregnancy before starting the process of seeking an accommodation, said she would have wanted lighter duties before that time, but was afraid to ask because she was still on her one-year probation.
“While it is encouraging to hear the MTA has made this announcement, the Administration has still failed to fully comply with the law by providing a transparent, interactive and lawful policy detailing a process by which all pregnant employees can obtain a reasonable accommodation,” said Williams’s attorney Retu Singla in a statement. In addition to Williams, Singla is representing several other MTA workers in a lawsuit against the MTA, claiming it failed to provide accommodations for them when they were pregnant.
In 2019 the TWU filed several lawsuits against the MTA over not providing bus drivers and subway operators with adequate accommodations when they were pregnant.
During contract negotiations in January, when the last union contract was ratified, the MTA agreed to create a committee to discuss setting aside positions for pregnant workers, but the committee never met until after Williams lost her baby.